By Logan Henry
Despite my last post about handling anxiety, I have to be honest, before class started I was terrified. I had butterflies in my stomach I was so nervous. I was particularly anxious because it’s not an introductory class, and my last experience with oil paint was four years ago (and we all saw how well that turned out). But, I am here to remind you, do not worry. Nothing is going to go wrong.
Well, actually, something did go wrong. The first night of class I was thirty minutes late because I thought it started at six. I was mortified, but Marc was so kind about it. Everyone was in the middle of painting, but he stood up to help me prepare everything. And even talked down my nerves. Marc’s talent may make him seem intimidating at first, but he is genuinely one of the nicest people. He is patient and will answer any one of your questions. My advice to you would be, don’t show up thirty minutes late, but if you do, know you’re in the most understanding and capable of hands. But don’t worry, nothing will go wrong for you.
I understand the hesitance surrounding oil painting. It always seems really complicated, right? It seems as if there are way too many materials involved. What do they all even do? One thing I knew for sure was that some of them were flammable, and it seemed just my luck that I would catch something on fire. But don’t worry, nothing like that is going to happen. And Marc will guide you through the materials and you’ll catch on really fast. I know if I were considering a painting class, I would like to know some basics prior to starting. So, here is the quick and dirty run down of what you will learn:
- There are at least a million different colors of red. And that’s when they’re in a tube, not after you mix them. After you mix colors, there’s at least a million and a half shades of red. Depending on your subject, you may learn that there are a few hundred shades of yellow, or blue. But rest assured, red beats them all. You’ll see. But you’ll get the hang of all of the colors after the first class.
- In my art experience, I have always started with an outline, almost a blueprint of my painting. Instead, Marc made me put the brush on the canvas with no outline. I had to learn how to block in a painting. You can expect to learn some of the same.
- White? What’s that? You can pretty much forget the color white in oil painting, and black too. When mixing colors, you will rarely, if ever, use white or black. Instead you will learn how to darken and lighten shades with browns and other colors.
- Turpenoid is a paint thinner used to clean brushes as well as, you guessed it, thin oil to paint on canvas. You will need turpenoid to clean your brushes, but you don’t necessarily need it for your oils. Depending on texture preference, you can use no paint thinner or a lot for your painting. It’s something you’ll feel out pretty quickly.
- Liquin is a thick substance that you apply to your oil painting in a thin layer once it has dried. This helps keep the work vibrant. You will do this every week, but make sure to do it before class starts. Also know that you wash your brush the same way you would if oil was on it.
- Speaking of washing your brush, I will also walk you through how to do that. Rinse your brush off in turpenoid and wipe it on a paper towel until color stops coming off the brush, then wash it in the sink with soap and dry it. And I cannot stress enough that if you do not clean your brush properly, Marc will chop a finger off…kidding…mostly.
There is a lot to learn when it comes to materials and how and when to use them. It may sound daunting, but after a few weeks it feels natural.
Most importantly, Marc will teach you how to paint like a master. You will paint the same subject over several weeks. From life. To real size. It may seem challenging at first, but you truly lose yourself in it. You learn how to take the process slow, how to observe objects curving in space, how different brush strokes create different effects. Initially, I was tempted to hide behind texture. I even asked Marc if I could try using a palette knife, but he encouraged me not to. Instead of hiding behind the paint, I continued to chip away at a form and I think it came together.
One thing that I want to emphasize is while Marc will teach you how to paint like a master, how to paint realistically, that is not the end all be all. If you’re reading this worried that you don’t have the talent, I want you to stop. While it’s all well and good to want to improve your skill (and Marc will teach you), at the end of the day I think it’s about the process.
How does art make you feel? For me, as an overly-stressed college student, art makes me lose time. I look forward to class because I can sit down and lose myself. When Marc tells us to clean up, I don’t want to. I want to keep sitting there. Art makes me happy. Even when I don’t like how something has turned out (which is often), the process itself is not something to take for granted. It is a time when you can get out of your own head and relax. So if you’re reading this worried that you aren’t good enough, that oil is too serious, I want you to remember that art is about making you feel good. Forget the end product and just enjoy yourself. Take the class to learn, but also take the class because you like art and you like how it makes you feel.
“Hold your breath. Longer…longer. Now, take that awaited breath. That is what painting feels like to me: a wonderful, lung filling, invigorating, vital, fresh breath of life.” – Marc Rubin
Logan Henry is a Professional Writing major at Mansfield University. She has spent the past fifteen weeks as 171’s Marketing Intern. When she is not doing schoolwork or painting peppers, she enjoys drawing and painting portraits and writing creative pieces.